Amid tense contract negotiations between Sandy Springs-based UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the union is launching a balloting process for members to vote on authorizing a strike.
A strike vote is a way for the union to bolster its bargaining position by demonstrating solidarity among members, but does not mean a strike is planned.
At stake is the largest private collective bargaining agreement in North America, the massive shipping company’s plans for the future and the millions of packages that it delivers every day to consumers.
The Teamsters said its 340,000 members at UPS would begin voting at local union halls and at the gates of UPS facilities this week.
The UPS-Teamsters contract currently runs through July 31, and Teamsters general president Sean O’Brien has said for the past year that if the two sides do not reach agreement on a contract by then, UPS faces the prospect of a strike Aug. 1.
UPS called the vote “a routine part of the bargaining process” and said it “does not mean there will be a strike.”
The company also said it continues to make “meaningful progress” in negotiations, which began in April. The two sides have resolved supplemental contract talks and delved into national contract negotiations in early May.
The Teamsters said results of the strike authorization vote will be announced June 16.
“The time has come to use our strongest leverage and officially remind UPS that hundreds of thousands of Teamsters are ready to withhold our labor to ensure UPS acts accordingly,” O’Brien said in a written statement.
Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Fred Zuckerman in social media posts told members that they “must be ready to show these corporate executives how serious we are about our new contract.”
“UPS is going to give us what we’ve earned. But we have to fight like hell for it,” Zuckerman added. “We must be prepared to hit the streets August 1 if UPS screws this up.”
UPS said in its statement: “As with labor negotiations in other industries, the Teamsters will hold – and its members will likely approve – a strike authorization vote in the coming weeks.”
“We respect this step in the process and remain committed to making progress at the bargaining table,” the company said.
UPS earlier this year acknowledged it lost some business amid the Teamsters contract negotiations. Some customers have already shifted package volume away from UPS, according to UPS CEO Carol Tomé.
“We are going to win it back,” she said during an investor conference call in April.
Tomé has said she is confident a deal can be reached by the end of July. She said there’s a pipeline of more than $6 billion in business the company could win from new customers once it reaches a deal with the Teamsters.